Another Round is a comedy with tragic undertones. Our four leads guide us to the perils of not knowing or accepting your limits in Thomas Vinteberg’s brilliant film.
Four friends, all teachers at various stages of middle age, are stuck in a rut. Unable to share their passions either at school or at home, they embark on an audacious experiment: to see if a constant level of alcohol in their blood will help them find greater freedom and happiness.
Our four comrades are running on autopilot and just getting through life during the beginning of Another Round. Even when all around them is on the verge of falling off the proverbial cliff. They are men in their 40s who are struggling with the next stage in their life. They are not the virile young men they once were. Back pains and general body aches, marriage, the realisation that are alone and raising teenagers have all in ways for each of our subjects brought them to this apathetic point in their lives. None more so than Mads Mikkelsen’s Martin. Martin and his teacher friends Nikolah (Magnus Millang), Peter (Lars Ranthe) and Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen) are desperate, they need something to kick themselves out of this rut and thanks to some pseudoscience, and they think they have the solution.
Martins apathy has begun to not only affect his home life but be enough of an issue that his students and their parents have called for a meeting on his underperformance as a teacher. He is so apathetic towards his job that he did not even read a notification alerting him of the meeting in the internal school system. This practical scolding from the parents and students alerts him to things not being quite right and that a need is required. Thus our famous theory is raised and considered.
The belief that keeping a constant (except at the weekends) stream of an extra 0.05 blood alcohol in your body will keep you more a tune to your surroundings and your life is this theory. It is a massively flawed thought. Yet the group go for it and quickly find that they are much more engaging with their students and family. This increase in alcohol, (consumed through water bottles) enables the four to be the men they once were. Everyone is a winner, right?
Vinterberg has other ideas for out lovable albeit foolish group in Another Round. We know from the start that there is no way that this film is going to have a happy ending, you simply cannot consume alcohol daily and not have issues that arise from it. As you would expect with one of his films, there is always a price to pay and slowly as the group believe that upping their dosage will allow for them to be even happier, we find the inevitable tipping point.
This is where the tone of the film shifts, alcohol may be good for some, but for others, it is a grenade ready to explode in your hand. Vinterberg allows for a steady glimpse into these men’s lives with his camera when they are sober. We have fairly static shots. But as the birthday party scene shows, the drunker our cast get, the freer the movements the camera becomes. Quicker cuts as the glasses pile up onto the table and more drinks are served. It becomes a purposefully stumbling mess and it is quite the clever trick.
Led by Mikkelsen, this is a fantastic ensemble in Another Round. They are very much relatable group who all bring something original to the group. Their performances continually get better as the film continues and as we veer towards the third act, we see the range that each has and how effective they are as a cohesive group. There is a reason all four won Best Actor award recently as the Sans Sebastian film festival.
Mikkelsen and Bo Larsen shine the most in Another Round however with their performances. Mikkelsen practically on the verge of a breakdown at any moment in the films beginning, to the unearthing of Martins former charismatic self is a head-turner of a performance as you will see. Bo Larsen is exceptional as the sports teacher who struggles more than his friends with their experiment. His and Mikkelsen’s conversation in the third act moves you.
Director Thomas Vinterberg and co-writer Tobias Lindholm’s script could perhaps have been better off with shrinking the group from the four to a tighter three. Though the performances from all four are exquisite. There is the feeling that we could perhaps have spent more time with all of them equally if it were a three. Don’t ask me on who would get the short straw however, that is too tough a choice.
This is very much a tale of friendship, but also of male masculinity and how fragile it truly is. These men feel that instead of adjusting to their lives as they are now, that they must return to how it was for them before the years caught up. It is sad but also expected from a male perspective to see such denial. To allow fear to come into play and takes over their lives. The clever script allows us to live with and almost through this insecure group. To go along for the ride as they keep upping their dosages. Only leaving a brief moment does a bit of doubt rise up in the back of your mind. That the other foot is about to not drop, but stamp to the ground.
Another Round is a film that doesn’t let any of its characters off the hook. Thanks to Vinterberg’s expert hand we are left with a film that swings through as many emotions as it can. Perfectly tiptoing along the line of a crowd-pleaser and cautionary tale.
To view more of our reviews as we cover the London Film Festival 2020, please have a gander below!